BaYaka Pygmy multi-modal and mimetic communication traditions

Jerome Lewis

in The Social Origins of Language

Published in print June 2014 | ISBN: 9780199665327
Published online August 2014 | e-ISBN: 9780191779725 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Studies in the Evolution of Language

BaYaka Pygmy multi-modal and mimetic communication traditions

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  • Sociolinguistics
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By examining a set of similarities shared by Pygmy hunter-gatherer groups across Central Africa, this chapter suggests that they represent remnants of an ancient hunter-gatherer culture. They share a mimetic language style, polyphonic music, egalitarian social and political organization, and a forest-dependent lifestyle that shed light on the social conditions in which language evolved. By focusing on the range of BaYaka Pygmy communicative practices the chapter examines the role of mimesis in diverse activities from ritual to speech to hunting. The different but complementary communicative roles of music and language are explored to show how deceptive sounds aimed at non-humans can, in the context of a trusting human community, be reversed and deployed within the group to serve language-like functions. Gendered mimicry serves both to drive lexicon and enforce a normative order.

Keywords: Pygmy; hunter-gatherer; ritual; music; speech; egalitarianism; mimicry; immediate-return society; Aka; BaYaka; Baka; Mbuti

Chapter.  6578 words. 

Subjects: Sociolinguistics ; Psycholinguistics

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